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Does Illinois Recognize the Seat Belt Defense?

Posted on in Motor Vehicle Collisions

Chicago personal injury lawyerThe actions motorists take can often contribute to the severity of their injuries in the event of a collision. Refusing to wear a seat belt is a classic example. At Livas Law Group, a Division of Kralovec, Jambois & Schwartz, we routinely field questions about whether the refusal to wear a seat belt will harm a person’s personal injury lawsuit. In particular, accident victims want to know whether the seat belt defense is valid in Illinois.

Why the Seat Belt Defense Matters

Illinois recognizes the concept of comparative fault. Under this concept, a motorist cannot receive compensation if he or she is “more” at fault for an accident than all defendants combined. Put simply, a victim can be up to 50 percent responsible for their injuries—but not more—to collect compensation.

Failure to wear a seat belt probably sounds like a form of negligence. After all, seat belts have been proven to reduce the risk of injury and save lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a seat belt reduces the number of serious injuries by approximately 50 percent. In one year alone (2016), seat belts saved approximately 15,000 lives. Furthermore, wearing a seat belt is the law in our state. Everyone ages 8 or older must buckle up, even if the car is equipped with airbags.

If a person ran into the middle of the road, he or she would be taking an unnecessary risk. If a motorist hit a jaywalking pedestrian, few people would say the pedestrian was not at least partially at fault. It is reasonable to view the failure to wear a seatbelt in a similar manner.

Illinois Law on the Seat Belt Defense

Although the seat belt defense might make sense, Illinois actually does not recognize it. Illinois law states that failing to wear a seat belt cannot be considered evidence of negligence and cannot be used to limit an insurer’s liability. In other words, failure to wear a seat belt cannot be used to show comparative fault.

The law goes even further. It also states that compensation cannot be diminished for any accident because of failure to wear a seat belt. Generally, a defendant can always claim that a victim had a duty to mitigate his or her damages, but that argument is closed off by the statute.

Consequently, accident victims who were not wearing seat belts can still bring successful claims against insurers and in a court of law. Of course, this does not mean that people should not buckle up. There are very good reasons for doing so. Complying with the law is a big one. However, for those who are injured in a wreck, the law will not prevent them from obtaining compensation because they were unbuckled.

Contact a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer

Obtaining fair compensation after a motor vehicle accident takes knowledge and dedication. That is why it is important that you seek professional legal counsel. Contact an experienced Illinois car accident attorney at Livas Law Group today to begin your case. We can negotiate a favorable settlement or bring a lawsuit against the negligent parties. Call us today at 312-804-6102 to schedule your free consultation.





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